Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

You’re Gonna Serve Somebody

Written by: on March 27, 2020

OH NO! A Ramone’s song just came back to me! “I don’t wanna grow up…”[1]

A brief note about our social science authors from their bio’s: Christian Smith is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame. Smith’s research focuses primarily on religion in modernity, adolescents, American evangelicalism, and culture.

Kenda Creasy Dean is an ordained United Methodist minister and Professor of Youth, Church, and Culture at Princeton Theological Seminary. Before receiving her Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary, she was a pastor and campus minister in Maryland.

Each author speaks to the idea of what shapes our thinking, feeling, and resulting in our behaviors. It seems best to be positioned in that order. This post seems to help tie our first few blogs together that focused on what influenced Evangelicalism, Protestantism, and consumerism.

I found a few brief examples regarding the idea of shaping from each author that caught my attention.

Smith wrote, “People, of course, do a lot to shape their own personal lives. But they also always do so in the context of larger social and cultural realities that influence and govern their lives.”[2]

Smith seeks to influence us to better understand what shapes us by writing, “To adequately understand people’s lives, we need to understand not only their decisions and actions but also the social contexts in which their lives and choices are embedded. We need to see, how their assumptions, beliefs, and aspirations have been formed and internalized.”[3]

Dr. Dean wrote, “Christian formation invites young people into this motley band of pilgrims and prepares them to receive the Spirit who calls them, shapes them, and enlists them in God’s plan to right a capsized world.”[4] We are going to be formed by someone in life.

Dr. Dean also wrote, “Research is nearly unanimous on this point: parents matter most in shaping the religious lives of their children.”[5] The power of shaping that parents have clearly had vast implications. From personal experience, there is no such having no shaping impact on children.

Shaping is a huge issue as we saw in our first few books this term. On that point, I saw a Bob Dylan concert in Seattle, WA and will never forget the raspy voice of Bob singing this song. It has influenced me to be a bit more careful about what or who shapes me.

“You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
Indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody” [6]

Assumptions and beliefs of others that have the power to shape. I recall that many who I studied alongside at the University of WA and Regent University pursued their diplomas for more accolades in the marketplace. I was tempted to go there as well, because I wanted to fit in, so to speak. If learning happened it seemed to be more about how to create networks, socialize, and possibly academics along the way. It seemed that higher education did not have the general or specific shaping influence it was designed to have at Regent: “Christian Leadership to Change the World.”[7]

The good aspect of the students mentioned above is that the tribe was emerging as a core value. The power of the tribe had significant meaning and influence on whether or not its academics shaping was happening. The power of a tribe to shape continues from early childhood and has the power to do so throughout our lives.

I continue to wonder how much early childhood shapes our tendencies and beliefs. Jeffrey Arnett wrote, “For better and worse, their parents have contributed mightily toward shaping the persons they have become in emerging adulthood.”[8] I know many of those who grew up suffered through the effects of divorce, abuse, and abandonment. As much as the parents struggled with the pain of these conditions, children did too with lasting effects they did not understand.[9]

Will these experiences and impressions change our core beliefs to the point that our curiosity changes and vital pathways to adulthood be squashed or harmed?

As we can begin to see, imagination and influencers shape our lives by “changing our mind.” We may also need to begin to recognize that human imagination is a vital pathway in understanding leadership. What kind of learning does this require? That is debatable.

I believe that the process of imagination and influencers shaping our lives is a relatively unconscious activity. We can reflect on our own experience of learning, and we can observe the process of imagination as life seems to dissolve. Will the transformation of our experience us and new patterns of life arise out of conflicting circumstances that are confusing, disturbing, and often devastating.

Parks wrote, “Moreover, as emerging adults are the stewards of our shared future, every college, university, corporate, and military recruiter claims to be preparing tomorrow’s leadership.”[10] Therefore, let us celebrate tribes, influencers, and imaginations. Yet, Scripture calls us to care for one another so that we do not become devastated by these blessings. Hebrews 10:24, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works…”

[1] Ramone’s, “I don’t wanna grow up,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Tpu_XoNABA.

[2] Christian Smith, Kari Marie Christoffersen, Hilary A. Davidson, and Patricia Snell Herzog, Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011, 5.

[3] Ibid., 141.

[4] Kenda Creasy Dean, Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church, New York: Oxford University Press, 2010, 7.

[5] Ibid., 112.

[6] https://www.google.com/search?q=bob+dylan+youre+going+to+serve+somebody+lyrics&oq=bob+dylan+youre+going+to+serve+somebody+lyrics&aqs=chrome..69i57.15519j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8.

[7] https://www.regent.edu/

[8] Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from the Late Teens Through the Twenties, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 82.

[9] Ibid., 141.

[10] Sharon Daloz Parks, Big Questions, Worthy Dreams: Mentoring Emerging Adults in Their Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Faith, Wiley: Kindle Edition, Location 3080.

About the Author

Steve Wingate

13 responses to “You’re Gonna Serve Somebody”

  1. Joe Castillo says:

    For several decades, we have observed national figures that describe high rates of social inequality, individual and organized group violence, and worrying unequal distribution of wealth. And all this happens when the world and many of our young students are entering fully into a new technological revolution that has left behind in less than three centuries, the predominant use of coal, to move to the production of electricity by different means and there to digital information and which is dizzyingly immersed today in artificial intelligence, biotechnology, automated factories, internet of things and autonomous vehicles. Reconciling modernity with our social problems is an enormous challenge.

  2. Shawn Cramer says:

    I’m glad someone brought up the imagination. Dean was calling for a development of “missional imagination” and Smith and others were basing their work on “sociological imagination.” Good highlight.

    • Steve Wingate says:

      Thank you Shawn. I am attracted to helping people create new imaginations in what a healthy community can do. So often as I was growing older at home I’d see something that I wanted to try (good stuff) and that was squashed. I believe it was because my mom, father, and step dad had suffered such loss that they didn’t want to risk. God had to make me feel safe, good friends had to help me feel safe, and my lovely wife kept saying- let’s give a try. We can always go back. That is now my focus- I’m going forward.

  3. Dylan Branson says:


    I would agree that the way influencers change us is seemingly unconscious. With the way social media works, it’s easy to mindlessly consume different people’s content and absorb their teachings subconsciously. I think a big part of that is how influencers work to cultivate an identity among their audience. There’s a popular YouTube channel my housemates and I watch called Good Mythical Morning. Throughout each episode, the hosts refer to their audience as “Mythical Beasts” and when you see their posts on sites such as Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, you see that people commenting on their posts refer to THEMSELVES as Mythical Beasts. So in this regard, we have to be able to parse the identities we’re taking on.

    I’m curious to know what you saw as the big challenges you saw your kids facing when you were raising them versus what you see the challenges your grandchildren will be/are facing. Are there any challenges that overlap and transcend generations?

    • Steve Wingate says:

      Dylan, I think one the biggest challenges were trying to celebrate what our daughter wanted to try and help her praying through things as she moved “forward.” But, when she would tell grandparents- one strictly Roman Catholic who grew up with sever corporal punishment and the other set forgetting all about God’s encouragement from the Apostle Paul in Eph. 3:21… So who does she listen to, as you say, parse out. We tried to encourage her that she was loved by all and we would help her know if she was getting to close to danger.

      Dylan, part of my discipling process in my family and learning from a healthier Christian I learned a practice I did everyday. Everyday I told my daughter I loved her- except for sleepovers at a friends. I believe this gave her more confidence to parse on her own as she went to college. Okay. I’ll stop so I don’t start crying. out of my vacant child

  4. Jer Swigart says:

    Love your emphasis on parents as the primary disicplemakers of the emerging generations. Seems we’ve outsourced so much of that job to the church. Curious as to how Dean’s thoughts here shape how you are equipping parents for the work of discipleship?

    • Steve Wingate says:

      Excellent question. I’m not perfect here. I do my best to model something favorably by engaging in conversation with the whole family at Church, the park.. but with the parents around obviously. I think this idea came to me one day when I was visiting a sick friend in the hospital. I realized I was to try to be a blessing to everyone in the room- the patient, nurse, family, friends… I know it sounds wild, but that is how this little practice happened. I saw it shape the entire room. I find being responsible for the room, whoever that is as parents is critical.

  5. Darcy Hansen says:

    How do you envision rekindling imagination in those who have had a less than ideal childhood, because as you noted, often a hard upbringing does squash one’s identity and ability to wonder, dream, and imagine something different? What role might mental health initiatives play in reclaiming such identity, both in the youth as well as the leaders?

    • Steve Wingate says:

      I grew up with social distancing.

      My social distancing as a child led to incredible unhealthy outcomes. It was abusive. I don’t think you have heard of any 9 year old taking PCP or drinking up to 2 fifths a week. That’s part of what social distancing did for me. However, there are healthy aspects of short-term as such.

      Social distancing I believe in itself is unhealthy. Physical distancing is more correct view for me. The lack of responsibility has to be repented of and go ‘forward’ in more responsible ways. Lack of responsibility is going to have its own fruit.

  6. Greg Reich says:

    A few things I learned when I pastored in the 1990’s. First, parents passed the spiritual responsibility for their children over to the church. They would often drop them off at sunday school and pick them up after children’s church. Second, people would rather hire more staff than take responsibility to be active in ministry themselves. In my current church the majority of the staff doesn’t do hospital visitation. We use a well equipped volunteer deacon team to do that ministry Third, people often don’t voice the opinion verbally they voice it through their giving or their attendance. The positive I see in the youth in the church I attend is their willingness to get involved and get their hands dirty.

    • Steve Wingate says:

      those can be outcomes, yet I’m not one who sees it with such broad strokes. It happens FOR SURE! What is our responsibility to this is my question. I don’t know if you do, but I feel a bit hobbled by those who have control- in their own minds- doing the shuffling off responsiblty too. Very sad. I’ve hit the wall with this and I’m rebelling a bit. Foowee, Im going to the hospital regardless. I was ordained as an elder, but the paradox of some who wine about what others are doing and they practice the same. Hummm. Whose going to step up and do what’s healthy regardless. Your insights always hit something in my heart! Love your questions!

  7. John McLarty says:

    The power of a peer group is critical to understand as it shapes young people. Right now with social distancing, many teens who are accustomed and usually more comfortable with remote and virtual interactions are craving in-person community. It will be interesting to see how this event shapes them going forward.

    • Steve Wingate says:

      So true. I am not in a pastoral role like yourself right now. That hurts my heart right now. Not that you are, but I’m in a pause position. So, maybe just maybe I need to get real with myself and how I’ll do the physical stuff much better and maybe we can train teens to get in touch with this too.

      Proud of you pastor

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